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Utopia for Realists summary

And How We Can Get There

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Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman explores ways to create a more equal society through innovative solutions such as a universal basic income and shorter workweeks. The book challenges conventional wisdom and provides a compelling vision for a better world.

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    Utopia for Realists
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    Today’s world should be a paradise, but it’s leaving us strangely dissatisfied.

    For most of human history, life was, as the famous philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” For centuries, the human experience changed little and was tough. 

    According to estimates by historians, the average Italian earned around $1,600 in the year 1300. Six centuries later, after a passage of time that saw Galileo, Newton, the Enlightenment, the invention of printing, the steam engine and gunpowder, how much was that average Italian earning? Still $1,600. 

    But in recent times, economic progress has occurred at an astounding pace. Today, the average Italian is 15 times as rich as in 1880. The global economy is 250 times the size it was before the Industrial Revolution. Things are now moving so fast that the price of a single watt of solar power has dropped by 99 percent since 1980. 

    As a result, in just the last century, billions of humans have reached a level of stability and comfort that would have seemed utopian to our counterparts throughout history. 

    After centuries in which hunger was a fundamental part of most humans’ lives, today, there are more people suffering from obesity than from starvation. We’re also safer – the murder rate in Western Europe, for example, is a full 40 times lower than in the Middle Ages, smallpox has been eradicated, and today, because less disease means fewer early deaths, the average life expectancy on the African continent is growing at a rate of four days every week. 

    In addition, our grasp of technology is such that, to a visitor from the Middle Ages, it might seem as if biblical prophecies are coming to life: Consider the Argus II, a brain implant that restores some sight to people with genetic blindness. Or the Rewalk – robotic legs that are giving paraplegic people the power to walk again!

    Secure, healthy and rich by any historical standard, we are living in paradise. So why does that feel so bleak, and why are so many people still dissatisfied with their lot? Maybe it’s that with so much wealth, we’ve forgotten how to dream big. Blinded by our consumer comforts, we’re no longer thinking about making life truly better. The moment has come to consider again what progress and living a good life in a time of material wealth really means.

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    What is Utopia for Realists about?

    Utopia for Realists (2016) is a call to arms for a radical rethinking of life, work and how society functions. It argues that the world enjoys unprecedented wealth and material comfort but is still full of problems, from soul-destroying jobs to inequality and poverty. We have the power to solve these problems and build a better future if we embrace utopian thinking.

    Utopia for Realists Review

    Utopia for Realists (2017) presents a thought-provoking exploration of bold ideas for creating a better society. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • This book provides groundbreaking proposals, such as a universal basic income and a shorter workweek, challenging conventional wisdom and offering new perspectives.
    • With sharp analysis and compelling evidence, it convincingly argues for the feasibility and benefits of these utopian ideas.
    • The author's ability to draw on historical examples and contemporary research makes this book engaging, eye-opening, and far from boring.

    Best quote from Utopia for Realists

    Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. – Oscar Wilde

    —Rutger Bregman
    example alt text

    Who should read Utopia for Realists?

    • Blue-sky thinkers
    • Socially engaged people who want to eradicate poverty 
    • Frustrated citizens who feel there must be a better way to organize our society and economy

    About the Author

    Rutger Bregman is a Dutch historian, author and internet sensation. His 2017 TED Talk “Poverty isn’t a lack of character; It’s a lack of cash” has been viewed 2.7 million times, and he was catapulted to internet fame by a clip of him at the 2019 Davos conference criticizing billionaires about taxation. A renowned advocate of Universal Basic Income, Bregman has published four other books in Dutch.

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    Utopia for Realists FAQs 

    What is the main message of Utopia for Realists?

    Utopia for Realists challenges conventional wisdom and explores radical ideas for a better future.

    How long does it take to read Utopia for Realists?

    The estimated reading time for Utopia for Realists is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Utopia for Realists a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Utopia for Realists is worth reading as it offers provocative ideas and fresh perspectives, pushing us to rethink society.

    Who is the author of Utopia for Realists?

    Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists.

    What to read after Utopia for Realists?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Utopia for Realists, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Humankind by Rutger Bregman
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    • How to Be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century by Erik Olin Wright
    • The Great Leveler by Walter Scheidel
    • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    • Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King
    • Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno
    • The Stoic Mindset by Mark Tuitert
    • Knife by Salman Rushdie